Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Spotlight on..... RSPCA Charity Shops

Spotlight on .... RSPCA Charity Shops

The focus on this Q&A session is to examine the work and role that charity shops have to play in supporting a charity network.
With thanks to: Lauren, Assistant Manager at RSPCA Chorlton Charity Shop

**the views contained within are those of the individual, and not representative of the RSPCA themselves as a registered charity**

The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals has existed since June 1824 where it was founded by a group of like-minded individuals based in London. It has since then grown into many chapters through out the UK. As the charity relies on public donations and public support to carry out its work, how long has the charity shop chain existed for and how does the charity shop chain support raising funds for the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch? 

The RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch is independent from the national RSPCA, and so is responsible for its own financial well being. Our four shops based in Chorlton, Didsbury, Urmston and the Northern Quarter provide a sizeable amount of income for the charity to help fund the animal rehabilitation and rehoming work the branch undertakes. The shops also help to keep our charity in the public eye, which is important because it inspires people to help us directly with cash donations.

As there are hundreds of charities based in the UK with different goals at heart through out the country, many of which use charity shops to raise funds for their own goals, this means there is competition on the high street for premium foot fall locations and for attracting attention from passers by to either donate goods or to purchase from the vast variety of wares on sale in any of the shops. What does the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch’s shops chain do in order to stand out from the crowd?

Our shops work hard to make sure they appeal to the general public and have the advantage of working for a highly popular cause: animals! I think the RSPCA Chorlton shop’s most important tool for standing out from the crowd is the window. We display the highest quality stock for passers by to take notice of, and try to make sure we're catering for all age groups. We even follow themes of popular holidays such as Christmas, and our personal favourite Halloween! Not only does the window give us a great opportunity to showcase our best stock and reasonable prices, but it lets our donors know that we really do make the most of the things they generously hand over to us.

What is the handling system for donations? could you talk us through what happens to an item from the point of where it is donated by a member of the public to the end point (sale). 

All of our donations are first checked for any imperfections that may make them unsalable. They are then sorted into departments and prepared for pricing. Bric-a-Brac is sorted and cleaned along with books and toys to be priced on the shop floor. Clothing is taken upstairs to be hung and steamed ready for pricing. Each item of stock has to be individually priced to ensure we maximise the amount we can raise whilst at the same time providing a fair and attractive price to the customer. We also receive money for recycling a variety of damaged items that cannot be sold.

Could you describe for our readers what a typical day at a charity shop is like? 

There is no such thing as a typical day at a charity shop! It's part of what makes the job so rewarding and exciting. You never know who might walk through the door, or what kind of donation you'll receive. A plan for the day is often made in the morning and by the afternoon it may have totally altered because someone has brought you their entire worldly possessions which need to be processed immediately or you'll fall behind. You need to be able to work fast and adapt to the constant changes around you, which makes it so much more interesting than any other type of retail work. 

During your time working with the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch, have there been any high points that sets working for a charity shop apart from working in other types of retail environment? 

One high point definitely springs to mind, but it started off as one of the lowest points I've had during my time with the RSPCA. I arrived at work one Monday morning to find donations piled up in the shop doorway, which isn't anything out of the ordinary. As I reached the bottom of the pile I saw a pet carrier, and my immediate retail reaction was 'I could probably get £5 for that'. Instantly my thoughts changed to 'I hope there's not an animal in there'. Lo and behold, as I picked up the pet carrier I found a very large cat staring back at me. As a shop worker I rarely find myself having difficult personal experiences with the animal side of the charity, and I was so sad to find such a lovely animal had been stuffed in a box and dumped on our doorstep. It was during a particularly busy period for our charity, and with the cattery and foster homes full we had to keep him in the office upstairs until there was room for him elsewhere. During this time we managed to transform Laurie the office cat from a timid hideaway into a confident puss who came to us for headbutts and treats. It was such a pleasure to help look after one of the animals in the charity's care, and I'm pleased to say he has now been rehomed! 

If there was anything you could say to the readers of Project52 to encourage them to make more use of the services provided by a charity shop, what would that be? 

Charity shops have come a long way in recent times and they work hard to offer a contemporary retail experience. For example, they offer a clean and comfortable shopping experience and, thanks to the generosity of the general public, offer high quality stock at affordable prices. This means that shopping for pleasure and necessity is something you can still enjoy given the current economic climate, all the while lining the food bowls of needy animals!

Finally, thank you for taking part in today's Q&A session from myself, and also thank you on behalf of the readers of Project52 for working hard to help support the raising of funds for the RSPCA to help the animals of the UK.

**the views contained within are those of the individual, and not representative of the RSPCA themselves as a registered charity**

Monday, 27 January 2014

week 5 - Lather, rinse, repeat (A)

Time to register at  for The letter writing challenge for February's theme ... for those who want to take part.

Due to agreeing to take part in an obscene amount of extra hours at my day job so that I can afford to put my money where my mouth is, (literally) and having continuing research /prep work for the months ahead, I will be doing a repeat of previous activities, (lather, rinse, repeat!) such as donating another bag of items to my local PDSA shop, and going to see my favourite big issue seller in Manchester. I don't know his name but he always has a smile and a kind word for anybody who buys from him.

As a personal side note, my beloved sponsor dog, Scooby, has sadly passed away, and I now have a new sponsor dog, who is deaf, so her carers communicate using hand gestures with her. She is called Skye.

Spotlight on.... Oxfam Charity shops

Spotlight on.... OXFAM Charity Shops

Q&A session to look at the role of the charity shop as a fundraiser in the public eye.
With Thanks to Kit, Greater Manchester area.

**the views contained within are those of the individual, and not representative of OXFAM themselves as a registered charity**

Oxfam International, is made up of 17 different organizations spread through out the world, and was founded in Oxford, England in 1942 with the goal of famine relief. It has grown since then to have operations in places such as the UK, USA, Canada, Europe, for example. One method of raising awareness for their goals and fundraising is through the use of charity shops. what made you want to work for them?

I started working there as a volunteer first as I love the music section and have a keen eye for rare records so wanted to help them make as much money as possible by researching and pricing records accordingly.

There are approximately 750 OXFAM shops in the UK, and it is apparently the largest retailer of 2nd hand books in the UK, which gives the charity chain a large high street presence. What does OXFAM do to help set itself apart from other Charity shops on the british high street?

Quality merchandise, only the best stock goes out in our shops and we try to keep the prices fair. We try to raise money for different projects regularly and we advertise to help different people in different parts of the world.

As OXFAM shops sell a mix of donated goods and fair trade items, can you talk us through the process of an item being donated to OXFAM to the end point where it is sold to a member of the public?

A customer will bring us the donation, we try to encourage them to sign up for gift aid if they haven't already. We then go through the donations and sort through what is good and we can sell and what is not. The products that we do not use get recycled where possible. The products we use get put on a hanger, steamed, priced and put out in the shop, as mentioned before we only use the best stock so anything that was old, worn, damaged or dirty do not get put out in the shop.

Have there been any high points or low points for you personally from working at an OXFAM charity shop? such as a dream - find being donated to the shop or something unexpected hiding within a donation bag?

The low points are when people donate items that are really not salable and they must know this but can't be bothered to go to the tip with it, e.g a used, dirty baking tray, cracked cups, china etc or really used, dirty clothes. People leaving products outside the shop in the rain is annoying as well as the products become unsaleable! High points are finding a great item in fantastic condition e.g designer gear unworn with original labels on sell really well and for a decent amount.

My personal favourite was finding David Bowie's album 'The man who sold the world' [in it's] original dress sleeve that was withdrawn, making it rare, we sold it online for a couple of hundred pounds. I get a real thrill when I find a rare record knowing we can make some decent money from it.

Is there anything that you would like to ask of the readers of project52 to do to help support OXFAM?

To help support oxfam please only donate stock that you would like to buy yourself to prevent waste, gift aid your donations if you are a tax payer and if you want to help and have the time please volunteer

Thank You Kit, on behalf of myself and the readers of 'Project52' for the work you do to support the goals of OXFAM UK

**the views contained within are those of the individual, and not representative of OXFAM themselves as a registered charity**

Monday, 20 January 2014

week 4 - Meat Free Mondays!

As a vegan, I already am meat-free, well animal product free, but meat-free mondays is a great way to have a healthy start to the week, be kinder to your wallet and make a small change to the enviroment. Even some of the UK's top MP's are getting in on the act!

for help and ideas, please visit:  or or animal aid's

For this week only, (20th Jan to 26th Jan) I am personally offering to either cook 1 meat-free meal for somebody for free (subject to location - Gtr Manchester area) or if too far away, send out my own personal recipe for chilli non carne which I keep top secret, not even my own boyfriend knows it! so if you want to be that 1 person, get in touch!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Spotlight on.... Blood Donation

I'm unable to donate blood myself due to needle phobia and a couple of other reasons, so I asked a friend to share her experience of recently giving blood. Hopefully her experience will answer any questions some of you may have about donating yourselves.

with thanks to Ms. N. F. Hetherington

"I'd got to the session early and there was already a queue outside, people kept telling me not to be nervous which I found quite silly as, although I know people who have a fear of needles, I've never understood it myself. When they started letting people in and it got to my turn the man at the desk just looked up expectantly. "Do I just give you my name?" 
    "Do you have an appointment?" He replied. The conversation then went that I'd been to a session before but that they hadn't allowed me to donate at that time and that I'd been sent a form to fill in with my donor number on it but forgotten to bring it. I was given a new form and told to fill it in and bring it back to another desk and have a large cold drink before donating. I sat down and realised I didn't know where to get a drink from and everyone was too busy to ask. I filled my form in and took it back and the woman [staff/ nurse] found me on the system, took my form off me and gave me a booklet to read before donating.        I found where the water was and read through the booklet which told me that I had to drink at least 500mls of fluid and that is they'd test my iron levels before donating (never an issue for me as even when pregnant I was always told how good my iron and B12 levels were but I was nervous all the same - hate the idea of ignorant people attributing bad levels to a plant-based diet). It wasn't long before she'd called on me and went through my form, I had to go through why I couldn't donate last time and she told me that I shouldn't have to mention it again. As I'd had a tattoo in the last 12 months I was asked the exact date and she [staff/ nurse] went to check if this was ok. Upon returning she said it was fine they'd just have to run an extra test on it.Then came the finger prick, she asked for my hand wiped my finger and pricked it and released a drop of blood into a plastic tube of blue liquid and watched it sink. I asked if that was good and she said the fact that it sunk meant I had good iron levels. I genuinely said, "Well that's good because I'm a vegan." I'm pretty sure it was verbal diarrhoea attributed to nerves. She then told me to take a seat round a table and wait to be called.     I was called up asked if I was right handed (I'm not) so was lead to one of the big plastic moulded with all the equipment on the right hand side. She reclined the seat and proceeded to search for a vein in my right arm. After a few unsuccessful attempts it was decided that my left would be better.    She [a nurse] found a vein and cleaned the spot on my arm and inserted the needle and it was all hooked up to what I can only describe as a reverse infusion pump. I was given a small tube to "twiddle" and she said clenching and unclenching my bum constantly would help my blood flow.   She checked I was ok and left me to it. I sat there for around ten minutes and the machine started beeping notifying the staff that I was 'done'. The same woman who hooked me up was available so she came to unattach everything and asked again if I was ok I reported numbness in my fingers and was assured that that was normal. She sat my seat up and told me to sit for a couple of minutes, sorted everything out and directed me to where I should have biscuits and a drink. Offered a choice of drinks I opted water and got my own Jammie Dodgers out of my bag, she told me that I hadn't had to bring my own and I said that I would rather have done so as I don't eat dairy etc. She said they had other options but I didn't read any packets so I don't know what they had. After a brief chat with the friend I'd come with we left to go home." 

For more information, please visit:  

Monday, 13 January 2014

week 3 - reflection on the journey so far

We're now three weeks into the blog and 3 acts of charity or kindness out of 52 have now happened. i have dropped the Hamlet course due to lack of time since I am doing sustainability, society and you + Introduction to forensic science at the same time as trying to plug my much at once...phew! I am hoping to be able to conduct interviews for features on charities, groups and establishments that are related to my themes for the upcoming months... I hope you didn't all think I was just going to be constantly taking things to a charity shop all year or asking you, the readers to do the same, did you? I hope not, as eventually we'd run out of things to donate and it would only benefit two areas: The Home (yours or mine) and the shop of choice.

If any of you reading this have a connection for a charity, grass roots campaign group, protest group, shelter (human, animal) work in conservation or have any ideas of small activities that could help another living sentient being, please, PLEASE, get in touch. All ideas considered.

This week I'll also be picking up the latest issue of THE BIG ISSUE - a magazine which helps the homeless or poor gain current work experience. 

Monday, 6 January 2014

week 2 - spare stuff Donation

This week I am planning to have a clear out of all my belongings that are either under the bed or in the spare built in wardrobe in the other room (used as a secret library and craft storage space) and donate to charity anything I know I will not use or be able to pass on to my craft inclined friends. Examples including soft toys, candles, nick knacks will be out, sewing materials, and letter writing materials will stay as I will need those for my planned February activities. My preferred Charity shop is the PDSA who help those with low incomes get veterinary treatment for their pets.   If you donate to a charity shop, please consider signing up to their gift aid scheme and also for email updates as this saves them time and money on declaring any monies raised from your goods donation.

Donate Unwanted Goods to Charity Shop

Monday update: 

I have just sent a very small donation in to a rescue group called Brandy Keg kennels Dog Rescue, who aim to save dogs from the kill list (get put to sleep after a set time) into their own small no-kill shelter and foster scheme.  The group has hit a dry spot with their own efforts and so any penny will help them. If you would like to take part in the Facebook donation drive, please visit:

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Week 1 - Food Bank Donation

In the days leaning up to this point, I had already already made the start of January for project 52 (see January post) by having a wardrobe clear-out and by registering for free online courses in order to better my own knowledge of culture, history, the law and own educational sense of self. I chose to label entries by week number and not by date as dates seemed to rigid when the plan is 52 activities, not 52 entries, so don't be worried when there's an A or B or C to some weeks.

 I am undertaking the study of Sustainability and the environment in the hopes that it will encourage me to have more sustainable or recyclable products in my every day life and help me to do something productive for the environment. perhaps start small and ask for better paper recycling in my work place.  I will also be taking an introduction to forensic science short course (a personal topic of interest) and if there is still time in my schedule, I will also be reading Macbeth as a 3rd course option. The first of these courses starts on Jan 6th 2014, but there are new courses starting all the time so if you feel inspired you could just wait until one sparks an interest for you at any time. I am using the website Future Learn

In the mean time between today and Jan 6th 2014, for my activity of the week I will be having a kitchen cupboard clear-out and all canned goods that have not been used for a long time (like that random tin of rice pudding that is doing nothing) shall be getting gathered up and taken to one of the small food bank donation bins I have seen dotted around my area. I have found food bank donation bins in Sainsbury's Bolton, and Costa Coffee, Victoria Square, Bolton, but none nearer to home so I will take the trip and use these ones. While checking through the cupboards for items to dontate, I found a lot of tinned goods and teas that were out of date and buried at the back. I hate waste but they may not have been safe to eat (lots dated 2012) so into the dustbin they went.

Pledge not to let food go to waste again!

Food Bank Donations 

January - Make a change in your life

Besides doing 52 activities... there are 52 weeks in a year after all, I also wanted to have one special activity each month as well for readers to aim for, if any of you feel inspired to take an action that will have a huge change for the life of another living being. Each of these will be documented in the week they take place in as well, but if you like to know what's coming up...  The planned themes list for the year is:

January - Make a change in your life

  • you could - have a wardrobe clear out and donate any in good condition clothing, shoes, books etc to a charity shop. My personal favourite is the PDSA. Please consider signing up to their gift aid scheme if you are a tax payer, and also to their email system. Many charities have to contact you when they issue updates or statements of any monies made from the sale of your goods. If you switch to allowing them to contact you by email, it will help save them money and paper waste. 

  • free education - Take up an online course for free! This will help keep your mind busy and may inspire you to chase that dream or career challenge you had previously avoided. For those not in work it will make a nice booster to your CV if the course is run by an accredited college or university and keep your IT skills and networking skills sharp. My preferred site is Future Learn . There are many others in the UK, Europe and USA, so please share if you find a good one!  

  • Veganuary! - perhaps having that home de-clutter or expanding your education isn't enough? maybe you'd like to de-clutter your body and soul? Have an interest in veganism or vegetarianism? Then Veganuary is the project for you! The Veganuary challenge is where you become vegan for the month and see what positive changes it makes to your body and your life. If after the month you decide it is not for you, then there is nothing wrong with that as you will have at least tried it with an open mind. I myself have been vegan since summer 2013 so if you take up the challenge and need help with supermarket navigation or cheap and easy recipe ideas, get in touch! For more information on Veganuary, please visit: 


Hi there!

Welcome to 'Project 52'.

I decided to start this blog late in December 2013 after thinking about all the charity campaigns aimed at those less fortunate around Christmas time. Well, that's all well and good to do something nice for Christmas time, but what about the rest of the year? And then I thought about how much some of these charities who campaign at Christmas ask for, many of them I could not afford to donate as much, so how could I do something nice that would still benefit another living being, human or animal without making myself poor in the process?

With that in mind, I decided to create 'Project 52' by way of sharing my ideas, plans and mini activities I will be setting myself to accomplish every week for the next year. Each of these will be in mind with the goal of doing something to make a the world a better place one moment at a time, starting with the world around me.

I am inviting bloggers from around the world to take part in 'Project 52' to share their own planned activities and events calendars (where applicable) so hopefully you, those who are reading this will be inspired to take part on one or more of the activities under taken.

If you would like to take part as a guest blogger, please get in touch!

I hope you enjoy the project and are inspired to do something good in your area.

Take Care,
love, Veg*n Kitten